A Reporter Reflects on His Own Reaction to the Election

Nov 6, 2008 6:28pm

On election night, ABC News correspondent Steve Osunsami was reporting live from (historically African-American) Morehouse college, and when word of Barack Obama’s victory came a boisterous celebration erupted around him. Steve found himself choking back tears. "From a personal note," he said, "as a kid I grew up in a neighborhood that was mostly black, and my father used to tell us that there’s no way this country would elect a black president. Well this evening, the country has proved my old man wrong, and we’re the better for it."

A number of media outlets have reported on the moment – some praising Steve for his candor, others asking whether it was appropriate for a reporter to share such emotion and personal history on election night.

Two days later, Steve Osunsami reflects:

A very dear friend of mine, an ABC producer who died last year, once told me something I should remember whenever I’m on the job. He said that one of my duties as a reporter is to share ‘inside baseball,’ to share with our viewers something they might not see with their own eyes, even if they were standing right there with me.

I repeat that often. Especially when I’m sitting down to write and the words aren’t coming. And this is what crossed my mind shortly before I opened up, on election night, after Senator Obama was declared the President-Elect.

I opened up, and fought back tears. I shared that ‘inside baseball,’ and these were emotions that millions of African-Americans across this country were feeling at that very moment. For me, it wasn’t the political event that was moving, it was the human event: on Tuesday night, the whole world watched as Americans of all colors came together in such an historic way.

Before the night was over, I would receive more than a dozen emails and Facebook messages from strangers, mostly white men, telling me that thanks to my little story, they finally ‘got it,’ that they now could understand why this election was so emotionally significant to so many black people, and that they too were glad that my dad was all wrong.

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